Friday Fable. Odo* of Cheriton’s “The Weeping Bald Man and Some Partridges”**

Posted by jlubans on May 17, 2013

“Against Rulers Feigning Justice”
“A bald man, his eyes streaming with tears, was killing partridges. And one partridge said to another: ‘Behold the man – how good and saintly he is.’ And the other asked: ‘Why do you call him good?’ ‘Don’t you see, ‘ replied the first, ‘how he is weeping?’ To this, answered another one back: ‘Don’t you see how he is killing us? This man’s tears are damnable – for while weeping he is annihilating us!’”

Odo’s epimythium: “Thus many … great men seem to pray beautifully and give alms – weeping all the while. Yet they flay and annihilate those who are simple and subject to them. Such men’s prayers and tears are damnable!”

My take: Alice in Wonderland remarked after the Walrus and the Carpenter scarfed up all the little oysters: (Of the two), "I like the Walrus best," said Alice, "because you see he was a little sorry for the poor oysters."
Odo’s story reminds me of an un-bald boss who fired a worker and then waxed solicitous about the ex-employee’s well being. It was meant to come across as a most magnanimous gesture, shedding rays of empathy and (crocodile) tears upon the displaced and downsized!
It was, instead, all a scam, a persona cultivated for the environment in which this boss worked.
Some people actually regarded this boss as a kind person and a great leader. Like the first partridge said, he was “good and saintly!” A few, especially those that were “flayed and annihilated” by him, penetrated the “good and saintly” veneer and saw the magnanimity for what it was: a politically cultivated strategy for self-advancement.

*Historic note about Odo the Fabulist by Prof. Laura Gibbs: “One of the most famous of … medieval fable collections was written by Odo of Cheriton, a 13th-century English preacher and scholar. Odo’s Latin fables were well known and circulated widely, as evidenced by numerous manuscript copies as well as translations into Spanish, French, and Welsh. Odo was a very learned man for his time, having studied in the schools of Paris, but he was not a high-brow scholar. Instead, he intended for his writings to appeal to a general audience, embracing both the clergy and lay people. Many of the fables evince a strong sympathy for the poor and oppressed, with often sharp criticisms of high-ranking church officials. At the same time, Odo also looked for theological messages in the fables, interpreting the stories of the animals as a symbolic code for the workings of God in the world.”

**Source: The Fables of Odo of Cheriton, translated by John C. Jacobs. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press 1985 pp, 79-80

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